Sunday, May 2, 2010

My first Holocaust dream, at age four....

The earliest Holocaust dream I remember came to me when I was about four years old.

I was somewhat of a precocious child. I was reading at age three, much to the surprise and disbelief of the adults in my life. I preferred the company of adults to children. And I felt a particular affinity for animals and nature.

Yet, for all of that, I was a normal child.

I was surrounded by love and security. I was a lucky child, in many ways. I played games, sang songs, loved cookies and hugs, and knew very little of the atrocities of which humanity is capable.

Still, I dreamt of the horrors. In vivid technicolor and terrifying reality.

This first dream, like so many of them to follow, went something like this:

I was a young girl of about ten years old, dressed in worn and ragged clothing – a long dull skirt, covered by a wrap-around long-sleeved blouse that had once been white, but now was stained and tattered. On my head, I wore a kerchief, tied under my chin, and I had thin, worn shoes slipped on my bare feet.

As the dream opened, I saw myself standing before a set of massive wooden doors, constructed like a barn door with no windows or openings, as the doors swung shut with a bang, followed by the clank of iron as the doors were bolted into place.

Tears streamed down my face and I cried out for help. “Wait! Stop!” I cried. “Let us out. Pleeeaase.”

I felt desperation as I sunk to my knees with my palms resting flat against the barred exit.

Behind me, the building was cold, dark, and damp, but bustling with noise. I turned and awe an unbelievable crowd of women pulsing through the cramped spaces. All of them, it seemed, were intent on finding a portion of bunk on which to settle.

I scanned the crowd, looking for…. Someone, anyone, I recognized. And yet, I knew, even before I looked, that I would find no one. I was all alone.

The darkness seemed eternal, and I prayed that would soon end. I huddled in the corner of a bunk, jammed in with three other women, and waited. Gradually, quiet crept over the barracks, as exhaustion – or death – won out over the fear that kept us all filling the silence.

Finally, when I thought I could stand it no longer, there was a loud bang as the doors were thrown open, and the guards pointed their rifles at us, yelling “Raus! Schnell! Schnell!” We scrambled out of the bunks and massed out of the barracks, squinting into the bright daylight beyond.

As I was propelled by the crowd, I lost my footing and fell into a puddle, splashing muddy water across my face. Behind me, two hands reach down to pick me up, their owners not breaking stride as I was wrenched along.

Once outside, we were pushed into a formation of sorts, and we all fell silent.

Terrified, I snuck glances side to side, trying to discern what was happening. I looked up, between the rows of women in front of me, and my eyes could not believe what they took in: before us, on a platform, stood a scaffolding with six nooses, hanging empty. A line of prisoners stood just beyond the scaffolding.

Loudly, the guards shouted at these waiting prisoners, prodding them with their rifles, and they moved slowly up the wooden steps to the waiting ropes….

It was at this point that I awoke, in a panic.

A child of four.

I knew nothing of Nazis or Racial Cleansing, or death camps. I knew nothing but the warmth and comfort of my loving family.

And yet, there it was, thrust into my innocent dreams – the horrors of the Holocaust – and there it would stay, for the rest of my life.

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